OK, so it sounds like either a bad “man walks into a pub” joke or a dubious play title, but these are the three components that (I think) have been slowly driving me nuts over the last week or so. And as I seem to have cracked it, I wanted to share in case it helps make anyone else’s life that bit easier.
Earlier this year, I invested in a new PC for processing photos. As part of my backup strategy, I’ve been running Windows 7 Backup to an external hard drive and, until recently, I have had no problems with this setup. I recently added a Datacolor Spyder Pro 3 in order to refine my colour matching for prints. My LCD display was no bother, but I had a few teething problems calibrating the wide gamut display on my Dell XPS laptop. Eventually I got it working with the help of the support people at Datacolor.
About 10 days ago, I started having problems with Windows Backup. I had filled the external drive with the incremental additions, so it was time to clear out some older copies to make space for the latest update. I deleted some of the older backups and started a new backup but it failed. I tried several times, but the process was repeatedly failing with errors like Access Denied and Server Execution Failed.
Research and Testing
I did what any normal Windows user does in these circumstances – after cursing Microsoft, I Googled the problem to start scanning the forums and knowledgebases for other users with the same problem and hopefully find a solution. My major leads centred around (a) conflicts between Backup and some Anti-Virus processes and (b) permissions on the System Volume Information folder being incorrectly set. I use Kaspersky Internet Security at the moment; it’s been running the whole time I’ve been using this backup solution, so I doubted that was the problem. All the same, I started to turn of the file Anti-Virus component each time I tried another backup – no joy. I then forced the permissions and ownership on the System Volume Information folder and its contents to be SYSTEM, adding my user (an admin) to the permissions as well for good measure. It seemed better, but still failed part way through the backup.
I then realised that this was the first backup I’d run since installing the Spyder. The monitoring software on the Pro version polls the device periodically for ambient light readings, so it would be doing something with the USB ports at the same time as I’m trying to backup to an external hard drive…through the USB ports. Being a suspicious sort, I tried disabling this too by quitting the monitoring software in the system tray.
Et voilà, the backup ran successfully for the first time in a week.
I’m not 100% confident which of these was/is the cause of my problem. The evidence suggests to me that there’s something about the Spyder software that was at the heart of it, but I’m stopping short of placing the blame there. I work with PCs every day and I know from experience that faults like this can easily be related to something that’s changed other than the obvious update, often a innocent-looking setting somewhere completely unexpected. I’ll try leaving the Anti-Virus on next time I run the backup to see if I can eliminate that – after all, it used to run OK with it on, so no reason why that should have changed.
It could just be I’ve experienced a “perfect storm” of conflicting software interactions. Or bad luck. Or something else. But for now I can make it work and I’m going to stick with the adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Update: 27 December 2011
I’ve re-run the backup, with the only change to my normal boot being that I disabled (i.e. Quit) the Spyder3Utility but leaving the Kaspersky Internet Security fully enabled. And it ran successfully. So it looks remarkably like the Datacolor software is causing a conflict with Windows 7 Backup. I’ll log a ticket; if I get any more info from Datacolor tech support, I’ll share it.